Ohio State is the top overall seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and its quest for the national title begins today with a second-round matchup against the 16th-seeded Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners.
The winner of this game will move on to the third round to clash with eighth- seeded George Mason or ninth-seeded Villanova on Sunday.
Texas-San Antonio is making its fourth all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament and finally earned the program's first-ever win in this event with a 70-61 triumph over Alabama State on Wednesday as part of the "First Four". The Roadrunners are now 20-13 overall, the first time they have reached the 20-win plateau in 19 years. UTSA captured its third Southland Conference Tournament title and fourth overall league tourney crown with a 75-72 victory over McNeese State on March 12th.
As for Ohio State, it is 45-25 in 26 previous trips to the "Big Dance" and won its only national title back in 1960. Head Coach Thad Matta has led OSU to four Big Ten titles in six years, and the team enters this tournament with a 32-2 overall record after winning the league's regular season and tournament championships. The Buckeyes' 29 regular season victories set a new school record, and since a top seed has never lost to a 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament, there is reason for confidence today.
This afternoon's affair marks the first-ever meeting between Texas-San Antonio and Ohio State on the hardwood.
UT-San Antonio's Devin Gibson, a First-Team All-Southland Conference performer, is the only player in the nation currently averaging at least 16 points (16.8 ppg), five rebounds (5.3 rpg), five assists (5.5 apg) and 2.5 steals (2.6 spg) per game. The versatile star owns program records for assists (546), steals (319), free throws (639), games played (118) and starts (110), and Gibson ranks third in scoring (1,657) and sixth in field goals (465) and rebounds (527). He gets plenty of help at the offensive end from Melvin Johnson III (15.2 ppg) and Jeromie Hill (13.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Both Gibson and Hill took a back seed to Johnson in the first-round victory over Alabama State on Wednesday, as the guard exploded for 29 points, 25 of which came in the first half. Those 25 points set a career high even before halftime, and Alabama State scored a mere 21 points as a team in the opening stanza. The Roadrunners earned a 20-10 edge in points from the foul line in that affair and limited the Hornets to 35.5 percent field goal efficiency.
Ohio State gets the job done at a high level at both ends of the court, not surprising considering the team's impressive 32-2 overall record. The Buckeyes are generating 77.1 ppg on 49.4 percent shooting from the field, and they are holding opponents to 59.8 ppg while outrebounding them by 4.8 rpg. Jared Sullinger paces OSU with 17.2 ppg on 53.6 percent shooting from the field, and the star freshman is also grabbing 10.1 rpg. William Buford provides 14.4 ppg, and he is an accurate shooter from both the perimeter and from the foul line. Jon Diebler, a 50 percent shooter from beyond the arc, checks in with 12.5 ppg, and David Lighty rounds out a foursome of double-digit scorers with 11.8 ppg. Lighty has handed out 110 assists, second only to freshman Aaron Craft's total of 153, and Lighty's 53 steals are second to Craft's 66.
No team in the country is more complete than Ohio State, which has all the key ingredients of a title team. Now, it's up to Matta and his players to justify the hype.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 93, Texas-San Antonio 68